The sleepless nights won’t last forever, although it might seem that way at the moment if you have a new baby. Many of us struggle with the endless feeds that seem to all blend into one, and which become even more exhausting come the wee hours. Whether you’re breastfeeding, bottle feeding or doing a bit of both, it’s hard work, which is why we’ve come up with 10 tips to help make the night feeds a little easier.
Preparation is key
Make sure you set up your night feeding spot with everything you’ll need well in advance. This usually includes muslins, nappies, wipes, spare clothing for both you and your baby in case of accidents, breast pads if you’re breastfeeding and a milk-making station if you’re formula feeding, including sterilised bottles and a flask of boiled water (making sure it stays above 70 degrees). And remember to keep some snacks and a bottle of water handy for yourself.
Don’t skip the burping
You know the scenario – your baby has finally finished their feed, drifted off into a milky slumber and you’re waiting for just the right moment to pop them down into the cot. It’s tempting to skip the burping for fear of waking them up, but the gassy discomfort that comes with not doing it is more likely to wake them – and they’ll probably sleep through the burping anyway.
If you don’t want to disturb your partner too much by bringing your baby into bed for feeding, treat yourself to a comfy chair and cushions so that you can rest as you feed. There’s nothing worse than sleep deprivation AND a sore back!
Quiet and calm
It’s only natural to want to kiss, cuddle and chat to them whatever time it is. During night feeds, try keeping your voice as low as possible so as to not stimulate them. Use calm, gentle movements to keep your baby relaxed and sleepy and hopefully they will drift back off. If they start to resist, wait a few minutes to see if they settle themselves; if not, sing a hushed lullaby and tap them gently on the bottom or stroke their forearm until they fall asleep.
Invest in a nightlight
In the early days, your baby will need time to figure out the difference between day and night, so you might want to give them a helping hand by keeping the lights low at night – plus avoiding turning on the main lights will help you fall asleep easier afterwards. To help you see what you’re doing and to provide a comforting glow, try a nightlight. We like this one from Pabobo which automatically turns on in the evenings and switches off when the sun rises.
Share the work
You may have your Supermum cape on for the first new nights, but it’s only fair to let your partner-in-parenting take their share of night feeds if you’re bottle feeding. Try taking one night on, one night off, so the other one can catch up on last night’s lost sleep. Sharing the workload now will help both of you bond with your baby, which may come in handy down the line when teething kicks in, and more sleepless nights commence.
Don’t hit snooze
Just when you thought you’d only been asleep for 30 seconds, you’ll hear the familiar hungry grunts coming from the cot and it’s time for another feed. It can be tempting to snooze for a few minutes in the hope your baby will settle back down (which is possible if they’re not hungry) but if it is time for a feed, try and tend to them as soon as you hear those first cries; full-blown crying can mean your baby will be too tired or upset to feed fully, leading to more wakings, as well as more wind.
Once you’re up, in can feel impossible to fall asleep as you lie awake waiting for the next feed. No matter how soon you might think it will come, try and get some shut-eye. And whatever you do, don’t look at the clock each time you wake up! It’s somehow harder to fall asleep if you know that it’s only been two hours since you were last woken up.
Easy clean up
When feeding, place a towel underneath you, in case of spit-up, sick or spillages. A dirty towel is easy to chuck in the wash, rather than having to deal with cleaning and drying a chair at 3am.
As tempting as it is to scroll through your phone as your baby feeds, the blue light won’t help you switch off and is more likely to affect your circadian rhythm. To help you pass the time, keep some earphones handy and try listening to a podcast instead (although you might want to save the true crime for a more reasonable hour!).